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kerri
kerri, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 15
Experience:  Qualified psychotherapist. Areas of expertise include family,parenting,relationships
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I am not sure if this is an appropriate place for this question,

Customer Question

I am not sure if this is an appropriate place for this question, but I will give it a shot. I am a divorced mother of three boys 1, 12 and 14 yo. I am doing ok financially, working 3/week as a nurse. What really bugs me is the inability to connect with my older boys. Suddenly, everything we have been doing in the past is not fun anymore to them. For example, I took a week off for the winter break and hired a nanny to watch my baby hoping that we could take day trips, play games, go to theater... Nope. All they wanted to do was stay inside and play video games!!!! I took them skiing one day, but it seemed like they did it for me. I am so mad and upset at the same time. I know they are changing, I know they are getting older, but there gotta be something we could still do together! They don't have any chores around the house, I pretty much do everythig by myself, and I feel frustrated all the time. My oldest told me recently that he has not seen me in a good mood in a very long time... Please, help me!
Thanks
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Rafael M.T.Therapist replied 1 year ago.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Hello, I am Rafael. Thanks for asking your question - I'm here to support you. (Information posted here is not private or confidential but public).

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

I am sorry to know about this frustrating situation.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

It seems that what may be happening here as you said is much about your sons getting older, but perhaps it is also about such changes leading them to want to do different things and the lack of further close communication and intimacy in your relationship. They do seem to care about you but also value much more the time they could spend indoors playing video games than doing any other healthier activity, where you could all share as a family. You said they have no chores at home whatsoever, then I wonder how have you taught them to be responsible, more empathetic and to value what is more important and worthy in life?

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Children are selfish by nature, thus empathy needs to be taught through concrete behaviors where they do learn about it and it's basically about they getting responsibilities according to their age, development and skills, which should happen from early childhood. If a 12 and a 14 year old children do not have responsibilities towards their mother, little sibling and the family-home as a whole, they would not have the very best means to develop the essential assertiveness, sensitivity, caring and accountability. Nowadays technology is overwhelming and many times not in positive ways, it could literally alienate children and adults from reality, to the point of replacing core values and interests, thus children could easily prefer spent several hours watching TV or playing video games instead of practicing sports or healthy games with other children and family. It's parents responsibility to raise them learning how to value things with a wise approach, int hat way it would become natural for them to set the right priorities, using healthy use of their intelligence and other skills.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Does it make sense?

Expert:  kerri replied 1 year ago.

Hello. You do not mention the relationship between the boys and their father? If the father is accessible, I have little doubt that they need a father-figure/male influence in their lives at this stage - if possible. If this is not possible, it is important to try to introduce 'new' interests, to divert their focus from those less important things such as the play station. With a little baby, I realise this is probably not easy, but there might be activities they have not yet experienced that would appeal to their sense of adventure or curiosity, which they could attend without you feeling the need to be present. The list of organisations that cater for youth in that age bracket, is extensive, so it might help if you sat down with them and discussed the importance of finding more productive ways to spend their time. If there is a father in the equation, is it possible for them to spend time with him? They are at an age where a male influence in their lives might spark a little more enthusiasm or motivation towards venturing further than the lounge room and tv. If this influence cannot be acquired via the father, there are plenty of activities that are run by men who can offer the sort of support and encouragement this age-group yearn for. Your concerns are justified and it must cause you a certain amount of concern otherwise you would not seek advice. However, the most important thing is that you feel you provide the sort of environment and choices for them to realise their true potential. As a parent this is one of the things that enables us to feel a sense of pride, when our children develop interests, can commit to following through to see results, become competent in their efforts to find their preferences in life and become emotionally fulfilled individuals as a result of our efforts to get them where they deserve to be.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Sorry! For some reason, I did not get any notifications that my question was answered! I agree with you, but I thick part if me misses them little and still weaver to spend time with me and have fun.
I would love to do anything with them, as long as we are together, but it seems like they resist it... Musicles, circus, museums, sightseeing, barbecuing, going to the beach... They refused all of these choices! Shall I insist??? I want them to enjoy it!
Expert:  kerri replied 1 year ago.
Hi. As much as you would like to do those things with the boys, they are at an age where they would probably prefer to choose things themselves. Ask them what it is they want to do, rather than expecting them to fulfil your expectations and wishes. They can see that you have other obligations (a baby) and therefore might like a little more freedom of choice and the opportunity to get out and about. But do be prepared for whatever it is they tell you that they want, because it might not be quite what you expect. I believe their use or over-use of the games and tv might be to overcome boredom. If they had things to look forward to they might liven up a bit. Please re-read my comments on the need for a father-figure at this age and perhaps do some research into the options I mentioned previously. They are no longer little, they will soon be young men and the more you encourage their progress, development and interests the more they will appreciate your efforts. Far more than if you try to hold them back. Those choices you mentioned do not appeal to them, but try not to take that personally. Refusing the choices you provided is a sure sign that they are ready for more stimulation in their lives. You will now have to think beyond the 'little boy' fun things, just as they do.
kerri, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 15
Experience: Qualified psychotherapist. Areas of expertise include family,parenting,relationships
kerri and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Like what? What would be an example of a fun thing to do with a 14 year old boy? When I ask them to cone up with something, they don't say anything!
Expert:  Rafael M.T.Therapist replied 1 year ago.
Hello

Thank you for replying. I just want to say in response to your comments that what seems obvious to me here is how much your children need to learn to be more mature, empathetic, assertive and to have fun while doing healthier activities. Only wanting to spend all their time watching TV and playing games while not having any responsibility at home is no a healthy approach to raise children at all. Children do not spontaneously learn to be assertive and responsible, but they use all their intellectual intelligence, social skills and means to manipulate and make things work the way they want. Thus is a parent does not set and keep healthy boundaries and limits, rules and discipline, making it clear what is healthy and acceptable and what is not, children would waste all of their free time watching TV, playing video games, playing int he internet, with their smart phone, etc.They would not learn to be assertive and mature with their friends or strangers, thus if you do not work on teaching them how to respect themselves and be empathetic and responsible, they would not develop these necessary skills and maturity.

To allow a child this age -12-14 to do whatever they want is not a healthy nor responsible approach at all, rather you need to dialogue with them, and be clear about which are their responsibilities at home, towards you, their little sibling, around house chores, and to find a balance between acceptable time watching TV and playing games, and doing any healthy activity by themselves and all together as a family. They used to enjoy many of these activities you said, but now that they are changing, they are and will continue pushing you to see how much more freedom and power they get, and if you do not know how to find the right balance between giving them time and space to be themselves, while also being fully responsible with their personal duties-tasks, those towards you and at home, they will have a hard time to build a healthy life as adults and to cope with life issues and responsibilities.

The easiest approach is to please their ego and let them do whatever they want, for sure they would "love " you and tell you how great you are, but those would be their egos pleased because of being spoiled, while your children's well-being and development would be deeply undermined and distorted. the healthy ways would trigger negative reactions, resistance and conflict, but these would be necessary and constructive conflicts as long as you commit to be consistent providing healthy and balanced discipline, affection, responsibilities and incentives.

You are playing both parental roles moment by moment in your children's lives, that's why both aspects of discipline-rules-responsibility on one hand, and affection, understanding and flexibility need to be present and balanced with real skill. this is not easy but tough at this time in their lives. Please consider taking parenting classes or getting family counseling for all of you to work with professional support on developing this open and healthy dialogue, to clarify doubts, and to develop a concrete plan where responsibility and fun, freedom and family sharing support each other, where you as the parent, guide and control this process while keeping an open dialogue with your children.

Thus they would have a specific period of time to watch TV for example, but only a long as they have already complied with academic tasks, home chores and any other responsibility. Then you would plan ans schedule other "healthy" activities, where you would be and share together. You would give them different options for them to choose with you. if they refuse to participate in this decision process, they that'd be their choice, and you would do your job and stick to them, thus you would teach them that they are accountable for their choices and actions, the same way you are, and if they do not want to work on defining what to do during afternoons, weekends, a vacation time, etc, then you would be the one to set those plans and they would have to participate either way.

Does it make sense?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you
Expert:  Rafael M.T.Therapist replied 1 year ago.
You're very welcome. Thank you for your trust.

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